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Neutral Zone Wrap: Who's on the rebound?

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

The regular season is here. Hallelujah!

Hope you had a relaxing summer, one where absolutely nothing happened except for the anticipation of meaningful NHL action. OK, so maybe you moved to another country and got married. But even if those events took place in the last few months, then your sights must have remained locked on hockey.

You may have forgotten some material since the Blackhawks shocked the Bruins (and us) in Game 6 of the Cup Final. Hope you have perused the other site resources and articles and feel sufficiently caught up. But if you're craving one more piece to get you going, then you're in luck.

There's always room for improvement. Not only in your leagues but also for actual NHLers who are poised to step up their game. Here are a few hopefuls who may not be getting the most attention or may be maligned for recent indiscretions but could serve as fantasy gold. (NOTE: These individuals could end up depreciating in value but that would depend on uncontrollable factors or how you use them in your lineup. In other words, plan accordingly.)

(For other related examples, be sure to check out Jan Levine's sleepers article.)

Brad Boyes, F, Panthers: Posted very respectable numbers with the Islanders in 2012-13 (35 points in 48 games, including 13 on the power-play) but was probably pushed out due to a forward glut. On a relatively young Panther lineup, Boyes was brought aboard on a tryout basis and has seamlessly fit in on a line with Kris Versteeg and rookie Aleksander Barkov. Don't expect any eye-popping figures; somewhere in the 50-point range will suffice.

Jannik Hansen, F, Canucks: The recipient of a new four-year, $10 million contract will be asked to assume more responsibility. In his five-year career, the Danish winger has excelled as a shorthanded contributor and is slowly working his way as a dependable top-six forward (note the 27 in 47 last year). With Zack Kassian maintaining his penchant for on-ice stupidity, it would seem Hansen is firmly positioned as the second right winger on the Canucks' depth chart and a spot on one of the power-play units.

Jussi Jokinen, F, Penguins: Fine, so Jokinen became an immediate success (11 in 10) after arriving from Carolina in April. But it was presumed the Finn wouldn't be able to repeat this feat skating on the third or fourth unit. In training camp and exhibition action, he has displayed great chemistry with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal (including a hat-trick against Columbus). And it seems that anyone who teams up with that duo should be destined for something better than average. It's funny to think the Canes are still paying a quarter of Jokinen's salary as part of their giveaway sweepstakes.

Ryan Miller, G, Sabres: You might be surprised to see the 2010 Vezina winner listed in this category but Miller belongs here. His stats last season 'slipped' to a 17-17-5 record with a 2.81 GAA, mainly a factor of a fresh Sabres squad that finished last in the Northeast. Some of the media and fan pressure looks like it eventually affected Miller, although he kept his cool and proved to be Buffalo's best player on many nights. Fortunately, there are three factors working in his favor. First off, Miller will undoubtedly want to prove his detractors wrong and step up his game. Secondly, his long-term contract expires next summer and he will want to exhibit his top skills for a new deal. And finally, the starter from Vancouver 2010 will be motivated for Sochi in his bid to reclaim the #1 job for the US squad. (Jonathan Quick appears to be the current frontrunner.)

Sami Salo, D, Lightning: A lot more was expected of Salo after inking a deal with the Bolts before last season. After all, the now-39 year old has always been known for his cannon from the point. And although Tampa finished in the top-half of the league in power-play percentage (13th at 19%), he wasn't a major factor (seven PPPs, 17 overall) and only managed a shot per game (with a paltry two goals). With a season in the Sunshine State under his belt and no Vincent Lecavalier to hinder backline man-advantage opportunities, expect Salo to increase his frequency hitting the net and continue scaring the bejeezus out of opposing goalies.

Honorable mention: Justin Abdelkader, F, Detroit; Josh Bailey, F, NY Islanders; Colin Greening, F, Ottawa; Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey; Tim Thomas, G, Florida

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Player News
Victor Hedman
Bolts' Hedman Snaps Scoring Slump
Victor Hedman, D, TB
12/24/2014
News: Victor Hedman registered an assist in Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Penguins.
Analysis: Victor Hedman also chipped in with a season-high six blocked shots, though he did bear some responsibility for a miscue that resulted in one Pittsburgh goal. In any case, the Bolts value Hedman primarily for his abilities on the offensive end, which haven't been readily evident of late. The assist snapped a streak of six games without a point for Hedman.

Steven Stamkos
Production Slowing In December For Bolts' Stamkos
Steven Stamkos, C, TB
12/24/2014
News: Steven Stamkos has recorded only three goals and an assist over his last nine contests.
Analysis: That level of production over that span of time certainly doesn't provide any reason for fantasy owners to sound the alarm, but it still represents the most significant dry spell of the season for Steven Stamkos. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Bolts have gone just 3-5-1 in those contests, though a slump of some extent was probably due to occur after the team's attack torched opponents over the season's first two months. The Tampa offense still looks like one of the league's strongest units in spite of its recent downturn in productivity, and Stamkos remains the lynchpin. Stay patient with the 24-year-old, as his resume of three 90-point campaigns suggest order will restore itself eventually.

Zach Redmond
Avs' Redmond Nabs Fourth Goal
Zach Redmond, D, COL
12/24/2014
News: Zach Redmond tallied his fourth goal of the season in Tuesday's 5-0 win over the Blues.
Analysis: Though he didn't enter the season with a regular role on the Avs' blue line, Zach Redmond has proven to be a suitable replacement for both Brad Stuart and now Ryan Wilson. With 10 points and a plus-5 rating over 23 games, Redmond offers more offensive upside than the typical third-pairing defenseman, making him legitimately interesting in deeper formats.

Martin Brodeur
Blues' Brodeur Perfect In Relief
Martin Brodeur, G, STL
12/24/2014
News: Martin Brodeur stopped all 10 shots he faced while playing the final period of Tuesday's loss to the Avalanche.
Analysis: Martin Brodeur's strong showing was largely ineffectual with the Avs already holding a 5-0 lead at the time of his entry into the game for the struggling Jake Allen. Neither Blues goalie is playing well at the moment, and while Allen will have a longer leash than Brodeur, there should be room for the 42-year-old to see a steady dosage of work until Brian Elliott (knee) returns.

Erik Johnson
Avs' Johnson Gets Goal In Third Straight
Erik Johnson, D, COL
12/24/2014
News: Erik Johnson netted his first game-winning goal of the season in Tuesday's 5-0 triumph over the Blues.
Analysis: Not only was Erik Johnson able to get some revenge of the team that formerly drafted him with the No. 1 overall draft choice, but he also extended his goal streak to three games. The 26-year-old has been one of the few positives to emerge out of a grim season thus far for the Avalanche, as his nine goals and 19 points have him on his way to eclipse his previous career bests of 10 and 39, respectively, in those categories.

Brad Stuart
Avs' Stuart Assists Twice Tuesday
Brad Stuart, D, COL
12/24/2014
News: Brad Stuart picked up two assists in Tuesday's 5-0 win over the Blues.
Analysis: The two helpers marked the first points in 18 games on the season for Brad Stuart, who offers his most value to the Avalanche on his own end of the ice. The 35-year-old blueliner won't blow you away with his hit or block totals either, making him mostly a non-entity in the fantasy game.

Steve Downie
No Mumps Update Until Friday For Pens' Downie
Steve Downie, RW, PIT
12/24/2014
News: The results of Steve Downie's tests for the mumps won't be available until Friday.
Analysis: With the NHL observing a three-day break in the schedule for the holidays, the status of Steve Downie, Brandon Sutter, and Thomas Greiss will remain shrouded in mystery until the Pens reconvene for practice. Downie has already missed the team's previous two games as a precaution.

Thomas Greiss
No Mumps Update Until Friday For Pens' Greiss
Thomas Greiss, G, PIT
12/24/2014
News: The results of Thomas Greiss' tests for the mumps won't be available until Friday.
Analysis: With the NHL observing a three-day break in the schedule for the holidays, the status of Thomas Greiss, Steve Downie, and Brandon Sutter will remain shrouded in mystery until the Pens reconvene for practice. Greiss has already been unavailable for the team's past two games as a precaution.

Brandon Sutter
No Mumps Update Until Friday For Pens' Sutter
Brandon Sutter, C, PIT
12/24/2014
News: The results of Brandon Sutter's tests for the mumps won't be available until Friday.
Analysis: With the NHL observing a three-day break in the schedule for the holidays, the status of Brandon Sutter, Steve Downie, and Thomas Greiss will remain shrouded in mystery until the Pens reconvene for practice. Sutter has already missed the team's previous two games as a precaution.

Trevor Smith
Leafs' Smith: Fringe Fantasy Future
Trevor Smith, C, TOR
12/24/2014
News: Trevor Smith has two assists, nine shots and 35 hits in 20 games since his his call-up from the AHL.
Analysis: Geez -- with numbers like that he's bound to be a fantasy star. #sarcasm. Trevor Smith is a fringe option on the ice and even worse in fantasy.

 
 
 
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